Thoughts on Grief in Recovery

Thoughts on Grief in Recovery: grieving the relationship with sexual sin that was so familiar.

Perhaps you have grieved over the death of a family member or close friend. The time following a death is very painful and full of all sorts of emotions. Usually there is closure. There is a body, people send flowers and bring food. Some may sit and talk with you as you reminisce the fond times you spent together. Some may laugh at the stories and some may cry with you. There is a funeral, a gathering of loved ones who grieve their own relationship to the one who was lost. There is the burial, the cemetery, a stone marking the life span of the one who is now gone from your life. Born,died, The recovery from your loss does not end at the cemetery. It continues for a long time.

We all grieve in different ways. The depth and pain of our grief correlates with the level of attachment to the one we lost. The death of a neighbor down the street or someone at the office will not have the impact as the death of a parent, spouse or child. The extent of your grief over the loss of a pet is determined by the relationship you have with the pet. The closer you are to the one you lost, the greater the pain and work of the grief you bare.

Have you considered the fact that someone does not have to die to initiate grief? We face loses daily. As I look into the mirror, I am reminded of the loss of my youth. The grey hair and wrinkles in my face are tell-tell signs that youth has passed. Not to mention the aches and pains that accompany the aging process. We may grieve the loss of health, the loss of a job, the loss of our home to fire. We may grieve the loss of friendships due to a move. There are “good” losses that are grieved, like the loss of a child to college, to marriage or a job in another town or state. These are what we raised our children for and are to be celebrated but when the time comes, we grieve the fact that they won’t be coming home for dinner and they no longer live in our home. They now turn to their spouse for their encouragement, help, conversation, and affection instead of dad.

When we face such losses we expect to find empathy, support, understanding, encouragement, comfort, and hope. We expect people to understand or at least accept our emotional out-burst or anger which is our protest against what has been taken from us. But what support, understanding, comfort, and empathy do we receive from the loss of one of our closest companions? The one who has consoled us when we have been rejected? The one who understood when we were tired and just needed release from the pressures of life? The one who provided companionship when we were lonely? The one who filled our appetite when we were hungry? The one who would always calm our anger, no matter how obnoxiously we showed it to the world or how deeply we buried it inside? This is the friend that was most trusted and would be there for us to comfort and console. This friend always satisfied our burning desire. This friend, you know, the one who is written about in Proverbs 7: 15ff.

“I have come out to meet you, to seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, with colored linens of Egypt. I have sprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with caresses. With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him.”

Our “friend,” the one we have turned to in times of need has been there to meet us, to comfort, seduce and entice us. But something has happened to the relationship with that “friend.” This is the “friend” that represents your sexual acting out. It is your illicit sexual partner, whether she is internet pornography, chat room, phone sex, prostitutes, massage parlors, one night stands, bar pick-ups, or a sexual relationship that has developed over time. And you have made a decision to end it. Whether it was you’re your choice or whether the choice was forced upon you by “getting caught.” Hopefully you realized that the above passage from Scripture did not end there. There was more as we pick up in verse 23:

Suddenly he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver;

As a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life.

If you have ended the relationship that has been so much a part of your life, you will grieve the loss as you would a death. A major part of your life has been amputated and you grieve. It helps to understand the stages of grief in order to identify what you need to do to work through your grief.

*Dr. H. Norman Wright lists the stages of grief as follows:

  • Loss
  • Shock
  • Numbness
  • Denial
  • Emotional Outbursts
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Searching’s
  • Disorganization
  • Panic
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Re-Entry Troubles
  • New Relationships
  • New Strengths
  • New Patterns
  • Hope
  • Affirmation
  • Helping Others
  • Loss
  • Adjustment

As you think about the stages in light of the loss of your sexual sin, your trusted companion through thick and thin could look like this:

  • Shock – sin exposed. Out of our shock and disbelief we want to minimize the loss. Lies are often employed to try to cover the shame of the exposure.
  • Numbness – A loss of feeling. Breathing has all but stopped and is very shallow.
  • Denial – This is only temporary. I can still maintain my secret life. This is not a permanent loss. Here we are leaving the door unlocked for future opportunities to act out.
  • Emotional Outburst – May come in arguments with spouse or others. These outburst are a flood of emotions from sorrow, anxiety, sadness, rage, vindictiveness, betrayal, helplessness, rejection, abandonment, envy, woe, depression, panic, dismay, apathy, anguish, resentment, inadequacy. As Dr. Wright explains these emotions are like a tangled ball of emotions.
  • Anger – A protest to the unfairness of the loss. This anger may come in arguments with your spouse or others. Or it could be internalized and suppressed in a form of resentment toward others, a seething within the heart.
  • Fear – How will I cope without my friend who satisfies my cravings for my lust?
  • Searching’s – Maybe there is a hidden magazine or perhaps I could just do some internet surfing and maybe something would pop up “unexpectedly.”
  • Disorganization – In the past life was well organized. It had to be to hide the secret life. Now it is exposed and life is in chaos.
  • Panic – How will I cope? What will the future bring? Will I loose my family? Friends? Job? More questions than answers.
  • Guilt – that says “I did something bad.” To Shame that says “I am bad.”
  • Loneliness – The times you normally would have acted out sexually now you face the reality of feeling really alone. This is one of the triggers that leads to acting out.
  • Isolation – pulling away from relationships. Again isolation provides opportunity to relapse.
  • Depression – Inward focusing on the shame and guilt that underline your feelings of unworthiness.
  • Re-Entry Troubles – Learning about the true intimacy that you have been substituting with false intimacy for years. True intimacy is about knowing and being known without the secrecy and masks. It is about acceptance of self and others, as well as responsibility.
  • New Relationships – Learning to have accountability with guys who you can have an openness of heart. A heart that holds no secret compartments. Learning to laugh with other men and building true friendships.
  • New Strengths – Investing in new hobbies and activities with others.
  • New Patterns – May involve going to bed together with your spouse instead of staying up waiting for opportunities to indulge with the old “friend.” New Patterns may involve deeper levels of communication. Family togetherness without TV.
  • Hope – Life can be good without the old “friend.” The confirmation that you can live without this influence in my life.
  • Affirmation – A sense of wholeness. A sense that the addiction can be managed.
  • Helping Others – By being real and transparent with other men you will lead and have influence in the lives of other men as a role model.

What makes the grief work most difficult in the loss of the sexual acting out is that most of the time, at least in the early stages, you may be grieving alone and without empathy from your family and friends. This grief work is necessary and the pain is reality. Ignoring these deep emotional needs will become a set up for relapse into the old patterns of life. By processing the stages of grief you will find peace and healing. Experiencing the true intimacy with your wife is far greater than the quick substitute of the false intimacy with the “old friendship” you have chosen to let die.

Meeting with a counselor to identify the losses and help process the grief and recovery is not only recommended but is essential.

Craig Boden

If you have not already attended Every Man’s Battle we encourage you to do so.

After you have attended Every Man’s Battle we encourage you to attend our New Life Weekend with your spouse.

Love Of The Familiar; Fear Of The Unknown

Never underestimate the power of the familiar. It has kept countless people from change, even when change would save their very lives. The familiar, after all, may be unhealthy, but at least we know it. We relate to it. And we’re all too prone to cling to familiar territory.

When that ‘familiar territory’ is sexual activity, it becomes perversely dear to us. Even though we admit it’s wrong, we also come to see it as an old friend. It’s reliable and available, and it works. It eases our pain and temporarily satisfies us. To repent of habitual sexual behavior is like abandoning a trustworthy buddy.

Compare this to drug addiction. A person doesn’t just fall into it. Somewhere along the line he discovers satisfaction through a chemical. It temporarily eases pain, helps him forget troubles, comforts him. It is his anesthetic, deadening his anxieties like a nurturing parent. Of course there are other ways he could deal with his problems, but the drug is familiar and has a good track record. Why give up something that works? What began as a comfort, is now a necessity!

Meanwhile he is becoming addicted. What began as a comfort is now a necessity, emotionally and physically. To give it up means to go through physical withdrawal, which is hard enough. But it would also mean finding another way to cope with the inner conflicts which remain long after withdrawal. In fact, without the familiar coping mechanism, those conflicts will be stronger and more painful than ever. The truth is, he must find other coping mechanisms, because the one he uses now will eventually destroy him.

Look at the Jewish people’s journey out of Egypt. They lived in bondage and prayed for deliverance, and God intervened. He brought them out of Egypt miraculously. But when faced with difficult situations in the wilderness, they were prone to long for the familiarity of Egypt and to dread the unknown Promised Land. Think about the power the familiar held for them! They had been treated worse than animals in Egypt, yet at times they would remember it fondly, saying, “At least we were fed regularly and had our basic needs taken care of!” The unknown frightened them, making them turn toward the bondage that they could at least relate to. And when they finally approached the Promised Land, the terror of its giant inhabitants overshadowed all the benefits that would go along with their new location. In Egypt at least they had survived. How could they be sure they would fare as well in new territory?

If you’ve been engaging in sexual immorality, you may also wonder how you’ll fare in new territory. It’s tough at times, to be sure, but it also opens up a way of freedom, new relationships, and peace of mind. What will it be? Cling to the old, destructive and familiar or move into freedom and the unknown?

The question, then, is this: Are you going to cling to familiar, destructive ways simply because you can relate to them, or are you willing to abandon them in favor of a new way of living which is better, even though at this point you can’t relate to it?

I trust that you’re ready and willing to try something better, which means that you’re ready and willing to repent.

See Every Man’s Battle for help in breaking out of the familiar.